23 And Me:
Yesterday was a momentous day in my life, reader. I received the results of my DNA testing. My entire genome was mapped out, and now I know it like the back of my own hand. Well, I don’t obviously, because the twenty-three chromosomes that make up who I am are very long. But because my As and Ts and Gs and Cs were lined up, geneticists are able to tell me more about myself. I learned shocking and wonderful things from my DNA kit, reader. Alarmingly, nearly four percent of my DNA comes from Neanderthals. I find this mortifying, especially because I have more than ninety-eight percent of the tested population. Isn’t that awful? I’m hella caveman. I’m one of the last remnants of the evolution of Neanderthal. I did not expect that. I don’t know what to think about this development. It allegedly makes me taller, but only by a tenth of an inch, so that’s not great. It’s weird. I do have a prominent forehead, so I suppose it all makes sense. I was surprised that I wasn’t as Eastern European as I have believed all my life. It turns out that my DNA mainly comes from Germany, France, Britain, and Scandinavia. I only ever knew about Germany and Britain. There’s some Finnish in me, too. But then it happened, reader. As I scanned the results, I discovered that there is a measurable amount of North African in me. I was ecstatic. I think you can understand this enthusiasm if you have been with me on this website for any length of time. If you don’t know what I’m getting at, take a look at the picture of me on a camel up there. I have always felt a deep connection to Africa, more than I can explain. I know it’s silly and it’s ridiculous (and do you expect anything else from me?) but I feel like these DNA results completed something that has been missing from my soul. I understand myself on a different level than before. And nothing has changed, of course. I’m the same as I ever was, but perhaps some vestigial memories that I always knew were true have finally been proven. I feel vindicated to have that insignificant little chunk of North African DNA inside of me. I always knew. This is me every day now:
Having my DNA analyzed has revolutionized my life, my world, everything. I am only vaguely Northern African, but I’m still very proud of it. Based on the haplogroup maps, it appears that the genes came from Algeria or Morocco. I mean, I did feel very much at home when I landed in Casablanca for the thirteen hour layover I had a couple years ago. Then they didn’t accept my cards and I about died, so I wasn’t so thrilled. But whatever. Now that I know I have North Africa in me, I can claim to be the Arab I have always felt to be in my heart. Bless 23 and Me. Bless my blessed DNA.
Stuffed Mushrooms at the Cheesecake Factory:
Django has been my favorite restaurant in Des Moines for years and years and years, but the idiots in charge insist on getting rid of the best parts of their menu. For some reason, they got rid of the Chocolate-Chambord cake, which rivaled desserts I’ve had in Paris. To insult me all the more, they no longer serve mushrooms faux pauvre, which is a portobello mushroom smothered in a dreamy peppercorn sauce. I have had it a million and two times. And then they had the audacity to get rid of that, too. I’ve been so annoyed that I haven’t gone back in over a year. I will soon, I’m sure, because I’m desperate for a serving of their ratatouille. That’s an absurdly good dish. But back to the mushrooms. I’ve tried mimicking the recipe in my own kitchen, but it’s never ever the same. Frustrated, I gave up. Then this past weekend, I was at the Cheesecake Factory and decided to try the stuffed mushrooms. I didn’t expect much from them, to be honest. It was the Cheesecake Factory, after all. The food is okay, but it’s hardly gourmet. Well, reader, I lost my shit over those mushrooms and I haven’t found it since. They tasted almost exactly like the dish I loved so much at Django. Instead of big portobellos, little ones are used and they are cooked to perfection. I was scraping the fond off the little cast iron skillet like a lunatic. I didn’t care who watched. It was so good. And then I washed that all down with a hibiscus lemonade, that tastes just as good as the wonderful ones they serve in Egypt at the Winter Palace. I was having the time of my life at dinner and I regret not one of the calories I consumed. My return to fitness has been a bit rocky in February, but this evening’s dietary choices were more than worth it. I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again.
“Elvis and Me” by Joanna Lumley:
Remember a week or so ago when I found myself gasping in delight over a Joanna Lumley documentary about Japan? Well, I did it again. There is a one hour special she did on Elvis Presley, and I never knew a thing about it. Since then, I have scoured her IMDB credits to assure myself that I am not missing out on anything, and I have now seen everything she’s ever hosted. That’s a bittersweet accomplishment, so I hope she does more documentaries very soon. They are like sermons for me; they fill me with peace and purpose. Instead of her usual travelogue, in this one, Joanna explores the early life of Elvis Presley. As the show started, I was captivated. I was enchanted. I was thrown back twenty years. I remembered suddenly and quite vividly, the scent of cassette ribbon and feeling so special as I loaded compilations of Elvis’ greatest hits into my tape player. Grandma Betty would give me an Avon catalog for my birthday or for Christmas and have me circle things that I would like. I must have circled some Elvis music, for that is what I received. I loved it. I loved the smoothness of his voice and the stories he told. And then I forgot completely about Elvis until Joanna reminded me. I never knew the hardships he went through, and I never fully understood the breadth of his fame. I never understood the struggles, the dedication, the riches, the charity, or the tackiness of the Jungle Room. The documentary really sparked something in me, and I listened to the song “American Trilogy” with such rapture afterwards. How marvelous it was. And Joanna was a dream as she talked about how much she loved Elvis in her youth and how she had always been burning with jealousy that Lisa Marie got to him first. An unexpected treat was Lisa Marie’s walk through of Graceland. I never thought a single thought about Lisa Marie before this show, but I was entirely captivated by her. She looks so amazing. People vilify her for her plastic surgeries, but I have always found people stunning who undergo surgery. That’s one of the reasons I have always been so in love with Joan Rivers. I thought she looked amazing. When one turns themselves into art, it’s such a treat. I’m going to look ridiculous by the time they cremate me. Lisa Marie looked grand, and I love her voice, and I want to go out to brunch with her. And then the documentary was over, and Joanna sped off down the highway in the most beautiful convertible, and I sighed with such contentment. She is such a gift to this world. I hope I meet her one day. I have to.
Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Performance:
I wasn’t sure at first what to think of Gaga’s performance back when it was announced. That was before she had released her latest album, Joanne, which might be her finest work. Once I heard it, I knew that she would appeal just fine to all the straights tuning in. She could appeal to them in ways that I never could have predicted when she was singing about disco sticks and celebrating diversity. But then America went to shit and started to crumble, and I prayed that Gaga would gay the place up and make the heterosexuals quiver in their boot cut jeans. My queen delivered. She started the show by singing a classic American folk tune all about inclusiveness. She shaded the president without mentioning his name and shamed the radical conservatives with something they once used for themselves. She proceeded to jump off the roof and onto the stage where she delivered her iconic gay anthem, “Born This Way.” I could feel the gay power of America returning tenfold. The gays were supercharged by what was happening. There was a profound cultural shift online, and I can’t wait to see how it works itself into the real world. There was glitter and sequins and fireworks. Gaga had three hairstyles and several outfits. She was giving America its life in the most flawless way. She sang her song “Million Reasons” and clearly made it all about America. It was all about America. She lifted us up. And then she hurled her mic and literally jumped into a pit. It was like she sacrificed herself to restore us to the country we’ve been for the last eight years. Bless Gaga. Make her Dame Gaga. Make her Queen Gaga. Make her President Gaga! I love that Gaga. I still regret that she and I didn’t bump into each other in Paris that night. Ah well…someday.
Boxelder Bug Safari:
I live in a white house surrounded by fields. This is bucolic, but leads to something awful when the crops come in. When the fields are emptied of corn and beans, the insects that lived out in the forests of vegetation decide that its time to move inside my house. The sun makes the white siding very attractive for boxelder bugs and Asian beetles, and so they find tiny cracks and holes and seams and then they squirm their way into my walls. They hide there for a while, but as winter rears its filthy head, the bugs decide the inside of my house is where they belong. The boxelder bugs are particularly bad this year. My window was crawling with a couple dozen of them the other day and something primal in my brain — probably the Neanderthal part — snapped. I went on a massacre. I went on a rampage. My floor was littered with their lifeless corpses. I have rarely felt such satisfaction, but also, I realized that I had become the biggest threat to their community. I feared retaliation, like from that angry army of wolf spiders that I eradicated whilst barely holding on to my own life. But boxelder bugs, are pretty stupid. They’re easy to kill and they don’t actively seek revenge. Now, the first thing I do when I wake up or get back home or go to bed, is patrol the house for boxelder bugs. There are few and far between now. When I started this hideous safari, I was slaughtering dozens of them. Now I find a handful. I won’t be satisfied until they’re all gone from every corner of the globe. They are a plague on this planet. I hate to be a killer, but as the Dixie Chicks sagely justified, “Earl had to die. Goodbye, Earl.”